One of the many ignorant criticisms that Muslims bring against the bible is that Jesus never claimed to be God; he only ever called himself a prophet, and nothing more, they insist. And they say that Jesus didn’t make Christianity or even intend to; he only came as a Jew for Jews, and that it was the apostle Paul who invented Christianity, making more of Jesus than Jesus himself did. Whether they initially got this idea from Bart Ehrman or not, I don’t know, but his books would certainly confirm them in that view, as some of them demonstrate in their websites. The Liberals, Higher Critics, and Unitarians, also claim that the gospels don’t prove that Jesus is God.
But, in fact, the gospels do demonstrate that Jesus is God and they’re very clear about it, as I’ve already shown in my articles on the synoptic gospels. But in their denials that the gospels do say or prove that Jesus is God, or that Jesus claimed deity, the enemies miss the point. And Jesus himself did claim deity as well. But Jesus didn’t come to prove he is God; he came as the messenger of God, and he claims that (e.g. Jn 4:34; 8:42). However, because Son of God and Son of Man are also terms of deity, especially in Jesus’ case, we see him revealed as God; that the unique messenger of God is God himself (e.g. Matt 1:23; Rev 1:8, 11, 18 cf Isa 9:6, 44:6; 48:12) . He frequently equates himself with God by saying things such as “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9; 13:31 NRSV); and showing how he and the Father did the same works e.g. 14:5-14; so he doesn’t hide his identity. But it was not his mission to bring glory to himself; he was sent to glorify the Father (Jn 17:4-5), and to announce that the kingdom of God had come (Mk 1:15). He came, not as an avenging deity to bring judgment and condemnation on the world (Jn 12:47) – he will be doing that when he returns to earth (Matt 25:31-46) – but to bring salvation and to reconcile God and humanity (2 Cor 5:19).
It is true that Jesus is called a prophet. Moses foretold his coming and said he would be a prophet like himself (Deut 18:15-22). The Jews were expecting this prophet, the Messiah, the son of David, and they thought it might have been John the Baptist; so they asked him “Who are you…..Are you Elijah?” (Jn 1:19, 21). The common Jewish people recognised him too: “The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matt 21:11). When Peter was speaking to the Jews after Jesus had ascended to heaven, he confirmed that Jesus was the prophet foretold by Moses (Acts 3:22). And yet Jesus was much more than a prophet, as John tells us throughout his writings.
The Word Was God
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being through him was life, and the life was the light of all people”. These are John’s opening words to his gospel (Jn 1:1-4). He doesn’t waste time in getting to the point, nor does he mince his words. Not only was “the Word” God; we’re also told that the Word was with God i.e. here is John’s introduction not only to Jesus, but also intimation of the Trinity. But the full revelation and unequivocal declaration of the Trinity is elsewhere stated by John himself: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 Jn 5:7 KJV).
And just as John sets these words (1:1-3) at the beginning of his gospel, he connects them with God and his creative acts in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth”. Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews does the same: “And, ‘In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing; like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end’” (Heb 1:10-13).
So we see that John didn’t invent the idea that Jesus is God, and second Person of the Trinity; it is also clearly stated elsewhere in the New Testament, and has its foundation in the Old Testament, as John and the writer of Hebrews show.
And just to make sure that we don’t confuse “the Word” with somebody other than Jesus, John assures us, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten son from the Father” (John 1:14; 1 Jn 1:1-4; see also 1 Tim 3:16 RSV-2CE). He reiterates the deity of Jesus the Son, Jesus the Word, by declaring “No one has ever seen God. It is god the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (Jn 1:18). Again, in his first letter he says of Jesus: “He is the true God and eternal life” (1 Jn 5:20).
Jesus Claims Equality with God
In the passage of the burning bush, the first description of the speaker of the voice emanating from the flames was “the angel of the LORD” (Ex 3:2). Then, in verse 4, he is identified as Yahweh (the LORD), and God. Again, in verse 6, we read, “…he said, ‘I am the God your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’. And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Ex 3:6). And when Moses asked God his name, he said, “‘I AM WHO I AM’. He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, I AM has sent me to you…..this is my name for ever’” (Ex 3:14). This was none other than Yahweh.
It was Yahweh, the speaker from the burning bush, who went before the children of Israel as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night when they were leaving Egypt (Ex 13:21-22); it was Yahweh who dried up the Red Sea so that Israel could cross, and destroyed Pharaoh and his army as they tried to follow them (Ex 14:1-31); it was Yahweh who led Israel through the wilderness in the books of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy; and it was Yahweh who, during this time, gave them manna to eat (Ex 16:14-26 cf Ps 78:25 where it is called “angels’ food”), and “spiritual” water to drink (Num 20:2-13).
And so it was no accident that Jesus claimed the very name of God for himself – he knew exactly what he was saying to the Jews with whom he was disputing, and exactly what it implied. John writes: “’Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad’. Then the Jews said to him, ’You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, Before Abraham was, I am’. So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (Jn 8:56-59).
This was no bluff to protect himself from the malice and wrath of the Jews. Jesus had already experienced their outrage and furious anger when he told them that God was his Father – a claim to deity; so he knew what their response would be when he claimed the name of Jehovah by saying of himself, “I am”. The earlier incident occurred after Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath day. John describes that occasion: “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working’. For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, making Himself equal to God….“the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing” (Jn 5:17-18).
And on a third occasion, he again claims deity. John relates it for us: “’I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one’. The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’ ‘It is not for good works that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God’” (Jn 10:11, 27-33).
Jesus twice claims deity in this passage. The first claim is that he calls himself “the good shepherd”, thus identifying and equating himself with, and claiming to be the Messiah who was now come. In these claims, he alludes to Ezekiel 34 where God rebukes the Israelite leaders, whom he calls “the shepherds of Israel”, in reality false shepherds, for abusing the people of Israel, God’s people, and robbing and exploiting them (Ezek 34:1-10). And he describes himself as the shepherd of Israel, caring for his flocks and herds, and pronouncing judgement on the false shepherds (Ezek 34:11-22 cf Jn 10:1, 5, 8, 10, 12-13; see also Isa 40:10-11). And then tells how he will set up over them “one shepherd….my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd” (Ezek 34:23).
In the second of the two claims to equality with God in this passage and therefore deity, he says “The Father and I are one”. This outraged the Jews and they tried yet again to kill him for blasphemy.
And when we read of the resurrected Jesus in heaven, he speaks as God himself, once again taking to himself the names and titles of Jehovah: “’I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8). And when he appeared to John, the description of him is the same as the vision of God seen by Daniel (Dan 10:4-9); and when John fell at his feet as dead, as did Daniel when he saw the same God, Jesus assured him, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last; and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive for ever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades” (Rev 1:17-18). These titles are those by which Jehovah refers to himself (Ezek 1:26; Isa 41:4; 44:6; 48:12). And Jesus unashamedly takes them to himself.
Jesus in the Trinity
“This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one” (1 Jn 5:6-8 KJV, DRB).
As can be seen in the above verses, this passage clearly and unequivocally declares and describes the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead, and is the only passage in the whole Bible which does so. In making this clear statement of the unity in trinity of the Godhead, it necessarily implies the deity of Jesus. In his gospel, John declares that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). In so doing, he reveals that the Godhead consists of more than one Person. In this passage, the Johannine Comma (a technical name for it), John gives us further and final revelation, that the Godhead consists of three Divine Persons, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost, and that they are One. Therefore we are able to speak of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit; this is a correct statement based on these verses even though it is not stated in this way in scripture, and it makes clear which Divine Person we are speaking of.
Unbelief in Jesus’ Deity is Damnable
“Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (Jn 3:18, 36).
There is no excuse – all those who refuse to believe that Jesus is God, be they Muslim, ex-Christian, atheist, Liberal, Higher Critic, Unitarian, cultist, or whoever, will not escape the wrath of God. You can’t “unbelieve” God out of his creation. Denying his existence doesn’t make him go away. Your condemnation already hangs over your head; you are already condemned – it only needs the appointed time until that judgment is executed. Don’t dare close your eyes in death – because as soon as you do, you will fall into the hands of the living God, and this is a fearful thing to happen, as the writer of Hebrews warns (Heb 10:31).
But, as the saying or the song goes, “It ain’t over till it’s over”. Yes, as things stand at this time, if you don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God, you are condemned. But God “is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9); that’s why he sent Jesus to die in the place of sinners. If you would escape his wrath, he’s provided a way to do so: “…just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up [crucified], that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have everlasting life” (Jn 3:14-16).
Unbelief won’t save you. Ignorance won’t save you. False arguments won’t save you. Defiance of God and mocking him won’t save you. Neither is God is your mate, your buddy, a good bloke who will look smilingly upon you because he’s such a nice guy; he won’t overlook your guilt because you weren’t as bad as some others; he won’t wink at your “smaller sins” because you didn’t murder anyone or rape anyone or rob any banks or hijack a car while the poor woman who owned it was still in it. In fact, he doesn’t even compare you with others – he compares you to his perfect, unbreakable, unrelenting, law; that law, the breaking of which, even the smallest commandment, requires the death penalty and eternal condemnation.
And it’s no good laughing, and saying, “Well, if I go to hell, all my friends will be there too” – What?!! Do you think that will make endless torment any more bearable? Those of your friends who will be there will also be suffering and will be no comfort to you. There is no comfort there; no peace; no respite; it is everlasting absence from the presence of God which is described in the most terrifying manner – fire, darkness, torment, flesh-eating worms – the mind recoils, staggers, when allowed to think for more than a few moments about that terrifying judgment.
If Jesus wasn’t God – if he was just a man, a prophet, as Islam insists; if he is a god but not Jehovah, as Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaim; if he was some superhuman exalted being or glorious angel or demigod, more than man but not quite God – if he was any of these, then God would not condemn you for not believing in him; because Jesus would then be a created being and God does not – would not – condemn you for not believing in him. But Jesus is none of these – he is the living and true God, as I’ve shown here from some of the apostle John’s writings and in many other articles I’ve written for this website. Consequently, to reject him through unbelief, ignorance, or defiance, is to bring the wrath of God upon your soul. And you are already condemned.
So I plead with you to repent and to come to God through Jesus and ask for his forgiveness. Acknowledge his Son and you will have peace with God; you will receive everlasting life; your filthy garments will be replaced with the robe of Christ’s perfect righteousness and consequently you will be able to stand before him, to come boldly into his presence as his beloved child. Your guilt will be lifted from you and cast into the deepest sea, God will come into you and fellowship with you, and you will enjoy him forever. All this and more he promises – and he cannot lie.
“The Scripture quotations contained herein are made from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition copyright 1993 and 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.” “Published by Catholic Bible Press, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee 37214.